Category Archives: Memories

Memories No. 8: Cactus Needles and A String of Pearls


It was in the summer of 1942 that I bought my very first record, a 10 inch, 78 rpm vinyl recording of Glenn Miller’s famous hit, “A String of Pearls.” I paid 73 cents, more than twice my hourly wage of 32 cents. That was my favorite song then and I love it still. It’s on my iPod.

 

I bought it at a record shop, the kind that had listening booths in which you could play a record before you bought it. The shop was somewhere near the Loews theatre in downtown Dayton, OH, the top theatre then. I think it has disappeared now. And there you could see a movie and a stage show on one admission. I remember movies like “DuBarry Was a Lady” with Lucille Ball, followed by a live stage show such as the band of Ozzie Nelson with his singer Harriet Hilliard (Ozzie’s wife who used her maiden name), the stars of the long-running TV series.

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Memories No. 7: “— But Its Bread and Butter to Us!”

In most large organizations, like GE, engineering managers may be put in charge of a variety of operations. Once you are promoted for the second time you find yourself managing some unfamiliar work. Your first promotion was to be manager of the group you worked in and helped build. You were, therefore, quite knowledgeable of the work and the people.

The next promotion would be to manage about seven such groups, almost always including the one you just ran. The other groups were doing work you were aware of but certainly not an expert in. You would have to learn each group’s work as best you could and, most importantly, determine the real technical leaders of the work, probably but not always, including the manager, and rely on their ideas and suggestions.

In the aerospace industry at GE our major customer was the US Government which often was a “moving target” in that they had uncertain/changeable budgets which sometimes had us in whiplash from stops, starts, sudden budget changes, etc. As a result many reorganizations occurred in our divisions resulting in layoffs and hiring, sometimes at the same time because a new contract may need “brain surgeons” while we had too many “plastic surgeons”.

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Memories No. 6: Do You Buy New or Used Cars?

That was the first question my new boss asked me. It was late summer of 1953 at the General Electric Jet Engine Plant in Evendale, Ohio just outside Cincinnati. I had arrived as an employee in early June 1953, hired to do controls analysis and design, the subject I had been teaching at Brooklyn Poly. So a few months after I arrived a few development groups were transferred to the new boss. He was to choose part of us to stay with him and part to form a more advanced work team. Welcome to big business – where you can count on change!

So who was this new boss who asked about used cars, and what was to be the goal of the re-organization?

The new boss was Gerhard Neumann, who later was to lead GE to become the largest jet engine manufacturer in the world. He is pictured below in the mid-nineties, not long before he died from leukemia in 1997.
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Jacaranda Time in San Diego

May is, indeed, Jacaranda time in San Diego. The beautiful blooms of the Jacaranda tree begin to show in early May and the full explosion of blue/purple/violet color continues throughout the month, after which the green growth takes over from the fallen blossoms that make a temporary carpet under the tree. The tree’s “leaves” are reminiscent of the mimosa which has a similar shade of green and shape.

The picture above is very much like the tree in the small park near our home and where dog-walkers, including me and my dog Genji, gather during the late afternoon walks. Continue reading

Memories No. 5: I Joined the Vermont Militia

In the spring of 1950 I was looking for a teaching job in electrical engineering while I completed my MSEE thesis for scheduled UK graduation in summer 1951. One day a professor in the EE Department gave me an ad for an assistant professorship at Norwich University starting in September. I went to the library and read what I could find about Norwich. It is a military school in Vermont, near the capitol, Montpelier, and was founded in 1819. It’s enrollment averaged around 2000. There were only two colleges: Collegeof Arts and Sciences and the Engineering College which had: Electrical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments. Only West Point is an older military school. Continue reading

Random Memories No. 4: “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

It was a clear, cool, sunny Wednesday that October 3, 1951 as I walked along Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn on my way back to the YMCA on Hanover Place. I had reserved a room there as a convenient place to stay until I found an apartment. I had been given a “classy room” with a single bed, wooden desk, straight back wooden chair, no phone, and shared showers and toilets at the end of the hall. But the price was right. 

Both pedestrian and vehicle traffic along Livingston Street were at low ebb as I walked along since rush hour had not started. 

About half way along my six block walk I saw a group of people standing around a news stand up ahead in the middle of the block, and as I got closer I realized that they were listening to the New York Giants – Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game, the deciding game of a three game playoff to see who would be in the World Series against the Yankees who had already clinched the American League top spot. The much-loved Red Barber, the “voice of the Dodgers” was calling the game. Most of the passing pedestrians would stop, at least for awhile before moving on, and many stayed, causing the crowd to grow.                        Continue reading

Random Memories No. 3 – Bloom, Violets, Bloom!!

This was one of the candidate cheers we came up with in the forties for the New York University Violets, the only team we knew of that had a flower as a “mascot!” And their uniforms were and are white and violet. I see now that they have chosen the overused bobcat as the game mascot – easier to make a bobcat costume than one for a violet.

We never got to see NYU play in those years, of course, because TV wasn’t available and most all of their games were played in and around NYC. Radio coverage of games was quite sparse in those days. We at UK could almost always count on our team’s games being broadcast on a Lexington station. Continue reading

может быть (Maybe)

The magic “maybe” bag – the more central government control, the more maybe bags will exist.

In September, 1979, I was in a fusion energy meeting at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow and, during a coffee break, I began to talk with one of the Russians about some research. He opened his brief case to get a paper for me that he had written and this net-type bag fell out. He explained what it was for and how often the central planning group in the Soviet Government would screw up in having the right amount of an item produced for a particular area or city. In particular, he said he was looking for a pair of his size of dress shoes and, since they didn’t provide a box or bag at the store, he needed something to carry them if he were lucky enough to find his size. He called it his “maybe” bag, as in maybe I’ll find what I want/need.   Continue reading

Random Memories No 2 – Saying Goodbye to the Solar System

The two Voyager spacecraft are about to say goodbye to the solar system and enter interstellar space after 33 years in flight. 

In the 1970s I was working at GE’s Space Division in Valley Forge as the energy engineering manager. One of my groups was responsible for the design of a radioisotope power supply that would supply DC power for the Voyager spacecraft. For details see http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/ We had won the contract to provide the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena the power supplies for the two spacecraft that were launched in 1977. A key reason for our selection was that we had supplied radioisotope power supplies before for Apollo Missions 13 and 14 experiments.

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Nuclear Power Slowly Gaining Acceptance

Chernobyl

I was reminded of this subject recently when I was sent some information about the Libyan bombing on April 15, 1986 which happened when I was on a European trip which lasted through April 26, 1986 when the Chernobyl reactor exploded and killed 47 workers who were trying to put out the fire. It had no containment structure such as is common in the rest of world.

There was quite a scare in Europe when radiation began being detected in Sweden and then some other countries. We were watching the news each evening as the announcers showed maps with the latest extent of the radioactivity which was drifting west. But, after 24 years it seems to me, after scanning various reports, that the damage to humans, animals and plants has been much, much less than the original panic indicated.

Japan, WWII

Nuclear energy came to the awareness of the world through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the first, and until now, the only atomic bombs used in war. It is understood that the use of nuclear energy started out under a terrifying cloud, literally and figuratively. And our biases, as would be expected, still tend to be negative and resistant to efforts to change them.

B-29 bombers practically obliterated 15 square miles of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945, resulting in an estimate by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police of 125,000 casualties, more than either A-bomb attack, but that information is just a footnote in history today. But over 300 B-29s flew on the night, not just the one as was over Hiroshima. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo#B-29_raids

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